By Tony Elumelu
I was transfixed listening to the lecturer, Professor and President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Museveni.
Twice when he spoke, I tried to clap because I was quite impressed and I was disturbing my neighbor on how knowledgeable President Museveni is.
President Museveni said quite a lot, talked extensively about the role of private sector in transformation and has also defined the meaning of transformation.
Mr. Museveni talked about transformation. To me, I want to talk about the kind of leadership we need to transform Africa.
I want to look at it from a slightly different perspective. More like context setting first. So which Africa are we talking about today? I will like to take us back a bit. I have at home two 4-year-old sons. It is amazing what these boys to at home with technology- iPads. They know how to take selfies. They know how to zoom the camera when they want to take a photograph. It is quite amazing what is happening. This is the world we live in today and this is part of the world we are talking about. The kind of leadership we need to take Africa to the next level.
I have my daughters who are in school and every day I interact with them because of technology. We do what is called Facetime. Mr. President you said before that some say history and you say it’s current affairs. Facetime technology helps you talk to someone in real time. You see and you speak.
Today we talk of instant photos. Before while I was growing up, we have polaroid, which was the closest to being instant but then we all know the problems associated with it.
Traditionally, we have cameras. You take a picture, you develop, you print and spend days before you get the pictures. Right now, it is pictures on the go. It is instant. That’s the world we are live in. A lot of technological changes occurring in the world.
Mr. Museveni talked about cars, transportation and what is being done in the transportation sector. We have Uber. In fact, Uber as a company does not own their own cars but they control the biggest fleet of cars on earth. That is what is happening in the world we live in today.
Some years back, I was a branch Manager in Port Harcourt, Nigeria where I interacted with customers and their requirements. To send messages to the headquarters would take 2-3 working days. Today, you are in NY and you want feedback from someone in Lagos or Kampala, you can get it immediately. That is the world we live in today. So, when we talk about leadership in this kind of world, we need to keep all of this in view and in mind.
If we look at the health sector, life expectancy in Africa before was 47 years. Today, it is over 70 and in fact inching towards 80. So, in that area, things are changing. We have a lot more people being born in Africa today than before and at the same time fewer people dying in Africa today. So, we have more in terms of population. How are we planning for this in Africa?
Let’s look at our society today, out of about 1.25 billion Africans, about 720 million are under the age of 30 in Africa. How are we planning for this population explosion in Africa and keep in view what I said earlier that more people are being born every day and fewer people are dying. Which is what we actually want in a society.
There is a lot of youth unemployment issues in Africa today. Joblessness is an issue for us in in Africa today. Extremism has become a major issue in Africa. Values in Africa, we know things can be better. Growing up, we knew about pressure groups and Government respected these pressure groups but most societies today, we hardly have pressure groups again.
Beliefs & culture, things have changed. I think today, we believe more in God than before and this is the society we have today.
What about economy? A lot has happened. We listened to the president and what he said on how the economy has evolved. We have growth today but we are told growth without inclusiveness. We have more poverty around us today in Africa. This is the Africa we are talking about and asking ourselves, what kind of leadership do we have today?
We have inequality. The poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. That’s the truth. Even though we do not have to criminalise wealth and we need to, as the President said, support the rise of the private sector because there in comes the ability for the economy to create employment and address some of the issues and challenges we have
The middle class in Africa is almost gone in most societies. You have the rich and the poor- some many of them and the rich- quite a few. So, when we talk therefore about leadership and the kind of leadership that we need for this kind of setting, it should be a long soul-searching exercise.
Editor’s note: Keynote Speech by Founder, Tony O. Elumelu’s Keynote Speech at the Africa Now Summit in Uganda, on March 12, 2019